THREE foreshortened days flying east, incoherent blocks of light and dark punctuated by shuffling queues into progressively decrepit aircraft brought us to the boat. The Sama Sama, a beautiful ironwood construction resting gently at anchor amidst a smattering of nappies, ready and waiting to take us out into the Spice Islands.
Our port of embarkation for this trip around a collection of dramatic volcanoes known as the Maluku Islands in Pacific Indonesia was Ternate. This little known city has several times been a centre of global importance. As a capital of the spice trade in the 18th Century Ternate controlled most of the global clove industry plus much of the nutmeg and mace. For more than 100 years the Dutch and English went at it tooth and nail around these islands attempting to wrest control of a trade once so lucrative, cloves, by weight, were worth more than gold.
A second time this town would grace the world map was in 1858 when a little-known scientist, Alfred Wallace, was presented in London as co-author of the theory of natural selection following his treaty on survival of the fittest, (written just up the hill from the harbour) and posted to Charles Darwin who'd been wrestling with his own theory of natural selection for 16 years. This missing puzzle piece shocked Darwin into publishing a hurried joint paper, one in which the coherent concept (the survival of the fittest) was Wallace's. History has largely forgotten this and Darwin being the fitter and stronger had by the end of his life appropriated the entire theory for himself.
Most recently these islands were largely depopulated as they became the frontline between the Japanese and the Allies during WWII.
And then there was us, eight guys, most topping 30, well creased and in truth lacking much to commend us other than the fact a couple of us had been here before seven years previously and vaguely knew the way. Our intention was to hopefully discover our own gold in the shape of a few new waves, to perform a second recce on some already known spots and assess the viability of the islands as an off season destination.
© Ed Temperley